September 2001

Hot Air Balloon

I was watching a hot air balloon show on television last week and it brought to mind an incident that happened back around 1950. I was on a street carnival helping my mother with her concession stand which consisted of jewelry and ruby glass. My mother always handled the finest grade of hand fired ruby glass and was tops in her field at engraving names on the purchased items with a small engraver.

The location was Fort Recovery, Ohio and the Chanos shows had the rides. One of the main attractions on the billing was a hot air balloon and parachute jump. It was a hot sunny day and I decided to go watch the operation. Being a younger fellow wanting to get as close as possible I went under the ropes and got within about fifteen feet to watch them inflate the balloon. When I arrived the balloon was partly inflated and I was able to see how they were able to finish the job. The balloon was sitting over a hole in the ground with a small fire burning in it. And a trench was dug from the hole out a few feet. If I remember correctly the trench leading to the hole under the balloon was about a foot or two deep.

As I approached, the people inflating the balloon were picking up buckets of kero?sene and throwing them through the trench on the fire under the balloon. After a few buckets and some threats to us bystanders to get out of the way the balloon inflated to the full extent and the man hooked his line on the balloon and said to release. The balloon rose very well and was filled with hot air and black smoke. When the balloon rose to a height where it started to get unstable the man jumped out and rode the parachute to the ground. While he was floating down the balloon turned over and came down trailing a large trail of black smoke. I think the balloon had a much larger hole in the bottom than modern high tech balloons.

This was a big event back in those days when we still had steam locomotives and you could tell the make of an automobile from a half mile away. If any of you readers have ever seen this kind of balloon show I would be interested in hearing from you as this is the only time I have ever witnessed an event of this kind.

Another thing I remember from this out?ing was a record on a PA system playing calliope music. To this day I have never heard the song played that day but I can still sit down and play it on my home organ which is a 24 year old three manual Rodgers model 330 Could it be that the calliope song played there might have been my first interest in midway music? Who Knows.

And so it was in the old organ shop.


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